They want to take over the state
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They want to take over the state
Free Staters love freedom and they're coming to your neighborhoodby Will Stewart email@example.com 03/03/05
They're coming. Some, in fact, are already here. They say they don't want to take over, but they advocate changing state government from within to fit their laissez faire philosophy. Consider yourself forewarned.
"We're not sure when we'll meet our goal," said Free State Project Merrimack Valley coordinator Calvin Pratt. "We have 6,400 signed up now and we're getting about two recruits a day, or about 14 a week."
The Free State Project started with a goal of recruiting 20,000 "liberty-loving people" to move to a single state, where they would work within the existing political framework to reduce the size and scope of government. In 2003 the group voted "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire as its destination of choice.
Project organizers had hoped to reach the 20,000 mark, whereupon all participants would begin moving to the Granite State, by late 2005 or early 2006. However, at the current rate, it won't happen until sometime in 2023.
However, Pratt said the group may see more sign-ups as a result of November's presidential election.
"A lot of people just can't deal with four more years of Bush," he said.
While it may be a bit frustrating, the fact that the 20,000 mark isn't even close hasn't stopped 100 or so people from moving here already. For the most part, the Free Staters have settled in the southern half of the state, Pratt said. He moved from New Jersey to Goffstown with his wife shortly after New Hampshire was selected as the Free State destination.
Another recent arrival is Keith Murphy, who, according to his essay at fieestateproject.org, moved to Manchester at the end of January to "escape the big-government mentality of my native Baltimore."
"I moved here on a New Year's Eve whim, on a gamble, and there's not a day that passes that I reflect that it was the wisest decision I ever made," he wrote.
When he moved, Murphy had money to sustain him for just six weeks, but he quickly found a community planning job in the central part of the state. But not all are so fortunate.
To help new arrivals adjust to New Hampshire, Pratt said already-settled Free Staters are resurrecting the concept of mutual-aid societies. These associa- tions are designed to provide economic and social services such as medical benefits and old-age pensions for members. He said such organizations went out of vogue with the creation of the welfare state last century, but are in line with the Free State Project's ideas.
"It's only temporary help, it's not a lifestyle or an entitlement," he said. "And it's based on reciprocity, in which those receiving help today will be helping others tomorrow."
Still, he said, many Free Staters, who hold strong beliefs on the virtue of self reliance, are reluctant to accept what they see as charity.
"It hasn't sunk in that it's not charity. It's been a hard sell -we're a spiny bunch," he said.
Those who have settled in the Menimack Valley gather once a month at Milly's Tavern to discuss strategy and make plans, like testifying in Concord on liberty-related bills. They call themselves the Merrimack Valley Porcupines because, like porcupines, they are "cute and non-aggressive, but you don't want to step on them."
The moniker has been attached to the national group as well, and serves as a fitting description of the group's members and ideals, Pratt said.
"We are reasonable people," he said. "We're not here to take over. We want to persuade people. We don't use force, but that's not to say we won't defend ourselves."
Photo caption: Area Free Staters met at Milly's last week to plot to take over the state.
Photos by James E.D. Cook
[FSP note: This article received a letter to the editor discussing the problems with its inaccuracy.]
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